Friday, January 29, 2010

Speed reading for the impaired

I will be the first to admit that, while I read everyone's guidelines I submit to, I read them quickly. I take brief, illegible notes and submit based on my chicken scratches. This doesn't always work out for me. I am sure I have messed up formatting, especially those clearly outside of the norm. With agents it is worse. I have been subbing to agents looking for a taker on my MG book. It has a couple of things going against it. It is short (although just right for the standard MG book at 26K) and it contains no supernatural elements. My characters aren't witches or vampires. They don't go hunting zombies or try to save the world. They are kids who have an adventure. Just like any kid could. It is the kind of book I read when I was ten. Just before I found my dad's copy of Robert Bloch's Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper.

My query has gotten some responses. A partial, quite a few flat out rejections and some very nice personal rejections. Yesterday I found out that my speed reading of guidelines got me in a bit of trouble. If I had been the agent I would have given me a Rejection on the spot. I didn't follow the guidelines. I sent my query and I, even after re-reading the guidelines, missed the part about the first ten pages. I was lucky enough that she invited me to re-submit (with emphasis on ACCORDING TO OUR GUIDELINES). I don't know if my query caught her eye or she is a nice agent who believes in second chances. Either way I am thankful for the second chance.

That is all. Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Good News

We found out last night that our well will (hopefully, if the weather holds) be dug next week. At least it is not the month without running water they gave us as a possibility. Oh, the joys of living in the country. Still, while we have changed how we do many things we are getting used to it. Still I look forward to being able to turn on a faucet again.

I was working on my supernatural YA that I have slowly been putting together over the last month and a half. (I still cling to it despite its slow go and tell myself I am choosing my words carefully as opposed to ramrodding it just to finish.) I like the fact that it is told from two different times, one when the character is a child and one when she has just gone out into the world. This way when I get stuck on one part I can work on the other. That was what I did today. I have been working on the child's part of the story since shortly after I started. Today I went back to her turn to adulthood. It was a welcome change. Things had been getting a little weird and I needed to show how she was adjusting to her new found freedom and the recent death of her grandmother. It all ties together. I am just glad I am writing.

Also, my wife and I went on our first date 15 years ago tonight. It was a vivid night of drinking beer (I still remember the brand) and watching Iowa State hockey (we kicked ass). One of the best nights of my life.

Good fight action about a minute in.

Have a great Thursday.

Monday, January 25, 2010

This is getting old in a hurry

I am sorry but this post will have little to do with writing and a lot of gripes involved. Here we go: I have to say this is possibly the worst winter I have ever remembered. The weather has been one miserable storm after another with no breaks in sight. Even our "thaw" we were supposed to have this weekend only caused flooding and when it re-froze caused slick streets. Last night while coming home from my mother-in-laws (where we spent the previous night because, while we finally got power back after several days of staring at candles for entertainment our well has gone bad so we have no water) I saw several people in their cars slide off the road because of black ice. Black ice is ice that just looks like wet road. It is very dangerous because it looks so unsuspecting.

So my daughter doesn't have school again today. I have lost track of how many days they have called it this year on account of the weather. We don't have running water in our house (I am drinking my orange juice this morning from a throw-away cup and would do the same with my cereal if I had paper bowls to put it in.)

the only good news is that I have caught up on some of my reading. I read Sideshow P.I.-The Devil's Garden by Nathanial Lambert and Kevin Sweeney (which was awesome, more about that later) and I am halfway through Gary Pool's recollections of his Vietnam experience as an EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) Xuc May (Never Happen). It is a self-published book and has the grammatical errors of one but it is an interesting book that reads like he is sitting there telling you the stories in person (which he has, because he installed a central air conditioning unit in my last house). (I am going to give him a plug for it now, (no one will ever try to take that address from him) If you ever interested in reading a soldiers recollection of the military life (and maybe some ideas for your own writing, I have come up with several nightmare scenarios I could form a story around) I would recommend looking it up.

It amazes me how much reading you can get done when you have nothing else to do. I can't clean without water, I can't do dishes, wash laundry. Without power there was no internet, no television, no movies, no building things in the shop. I did get a little bit of writing done in my hopefully YA book I am calling Moonbow, at least until the battery died on my laptop. It makes one thankful for all of the modern conveniences that we take for granted every day. It also makes me wish that the sun put in more than half a day a week this year.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

icy editing time

We have had another ice storm (the 2nd one this season and the 4th major storm this season. How lucky are we.) This one did more damage to the trees than the other one, which means when this mess melts I will be having a good time with the chainsaw. it has also set me back on my writing. Mostly because it involves more days off from school for my daughter. I get very little done when she is home. It is not her fault that her and her brother like to argue and fight so much.

So, while I haven't gotten any new writing done I have managed to hit the halfway point of the edits/re-writes in a novella I wrote last year. Beneath These Walls is coming along quite nicely. The overall story isn't nearly as bad as I remember when I wrote it and, while the good characters scenes are going very smoothly, the bad characters scenes are being chopped and rewritten so that they hardly resemble their original scenes.

And now that both children are up they have decided to go at each other like wolves on an elk carcass I have to go.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Katey mentioned the other day on my Thursday blog (which was a substitute for WIP Wednesday) "I don't think it needs to be speculative right off to grab the attention-". She was speaking of the fact that my speculative story that I am working on did start off with a speculative element. In fact it seems perfectly normal to start off with. No hint of where it is going.

Is this a bad thing? should we start with a speculative element to set the mood in a piece and let the reader know that this is going to be odd/different from the norm and that real world principals don't necessarily apply? Or is it okay to bring the reader into it when the writer wants to, as long as it makes sense in the story. I have been trying to remember the beginnings of several of my favorite spec stories and how, and when, we knew that this world the writer was creating was not quite like ours. Harry Potter comes to mind.

On page one of HP we are told that everything was quite normal. then on page 3 we are told of a cat reading a map and Mr. Dudley having to ponder what he just saw. Ms. Rowling seemed to come into the speculative nature of the story fairly quickly.

In Stephen King's book, The Shining, we manage to go through several chapters before we find out anything is truly wrong with the Overlook Hotel. We catch glimpses of it, but it isn't until much later in the book that it is actually spelled out for the reader.

These seem to be the two extremes and good books in their own right. They demonstrate that there is no clear cut way of doing this and that adding a speculative element into a story is an individual choice. I guess the key is to keep the readers attention and, as long as it is foreshadowed well enough, the writer can do about anything they want.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Storm of a different color

“Have you ever seen anything like it?” Oliver asked. He looked out on the horizon then back at his new car from the covered porch.

“Nope,” Al said as he got as close to the porch railing as he dared.

The big green bullfrogs had been raining down for ten minutes already. They smacked against the gutters and got hung up in the trees before they flopped to the ground. Their broken limbs tried to hop but it was more like a strained push than anything else.

“When do you suppose it will stop?” Oliver said.

Al settled into one of the mildew covered plastic chairs and took a long draw on the beer he had started earlier. It was warm but the flies weren't bothering it. “Don't know,” he said after his moment of reflection.

“Do ya think it's doing this in Calaveras county?”

Al smiled. “We could go for a drive and find out.”

Oliver cringed as a particularly large one broke his windshield and slid down the cherry red finish to the ground. He settled into a chair next to Al's. “Maybe later.”

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thursday the Fourteenth

It doesn't have the ring or sense of awe that Friday the 13th has, but it is an honest assessment of the day. Work continues to drag slowly for the two projects I am working on. A page edited here, a paragraph written there. It is slowly adding up.

Very slowly.

Since I have posted the previous beginning of the story in an earlier post (this is the one about the prism that doesn't seem to work) I have reworked it- a lot. That is now the second section of a longer piece that delves into girl and the grandmother. This is the new beginning, although that could change at any moment.

I visited her every Summer and this summer had been no different. As soon as school let out my parents dove me the 400 miles from Minnesota to Missouri and then drove back without me.
It was three weeks without me and I think they secretly enjoyed it, even if they said they couldn't wait to see me. For me it was time with an old woman I had little in common with in a strange town I knew practically nothing about.

There is little speculative about it from this but it gets there. I promise. Sorry I had to post this on a day other than Wednesday. Have a great Thursday the fourteenth.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

First grade reading assignments

My daughter, being in the first grade, is learning to read with some proficiency. she is, as I am told by her teachers, near the top of her class which makes me proud. they are doing reading proficiency tests at school this week and the material they have sent the children home with is atrocious at best. The story doesn't go anywhere. We read one page of what they sent home (they sent 8 pages to study from) I looked at her and said, "That was boring. Let's go get a book from the library to read." We picked out a nice Dr. Seuss and she read the whole thing by herself to me. She even got the cadence and inflection down correctly. :)

It baffles me that they want these kids to have a life long love of reading and then give them crap to read. It doesn't make any sense. Let them read Shel Silverstein (she read me The Giving Tree on Saturday) or some Seuss. Make it fun for them. Dick and Jane don't cut it anymore, although I wonder if it ever did cut it.

I was reading comic books in the first grade. I had a blast. It was fun. I still read. Sorry about the rant.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hello Monday

It is Monday. I can actually say I had a quasi-productive weekend and that things are getting back to normal around here. Now we are only going to be 12 degrees below normal instead of the 30-40 we have been for the last couple of weeks. I have a drift in my front yard that all but buries a 9 ft flowering cherry tree and I won't be able to tell if my mailman has come without actually going out to check.

Still, I managed some quality reading this weekend and a couple of pages of material in my work that I started for the Triangulation antho series but I determined soon after I started that the story was going to be far too long. Even now (and despite the fact that I have been working on this for 3 weeks now) it stands at 4K and I feel it is just getting started. I have to say that it is really weird writing from the point of view of a ten year old girl. I know where the story will end up (approximately) but getting from where she is to where she needs to go is going to be fun and potentially very challenging. I secretly hope it is.

So far I think I have four-thousand words of very good material. Time will tell if I am correct. In case you haven't noticed I am going for quality over quantity in this one and the words are leaking slowly out of me. I am deliberating over every phrase and word and hoping that each one rings true. It is frustrating at times and maddeningly slow, but when I re-read what I have it brings a smile to my face.

The weird part is that it isn't even Horror. It is more of fantasy than anything else. Off to make a pot of coffee and see where today takes me now. Have a good Monday.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Four Horsemen

Pill Hill Press has released the ToC for their Four Horsemen Antho. They are doing some things different with this one. 1. Every story will be illustrated. 2. It will be available as a hardcover as well as the trade paperback.
Opening Story:

* "A Pretty Lucky Day" by Camille Alexa
* "The Chronicles of an Alien Invader" by Jason Toupence
* "The God-King" by Scott M. Sandridge
* "The Gunny" by Megan R. Englehardt
* "Savage Planet" by Alethea Kontis
* "Scorched Earth" by Matthew Dent
* "Beware False Tribute" by Carla Joinson
* "Colorblind" by Jessy Marie Roberts
* "Fire and Stone" by Jonathan Shipley
* "The Battlefield" by Will Morton
* "The Midnight Maiden" by Bill Ward
* "Azieran: The Making of the Skullscron" by Christopher Heath
* "Untitled" by Alva J. Roberts
* "Fate's Hand in Mortal Affairs" by Jamie Eyberg
* "Superstition" by Laura Eno
* "Clay's Fire" by Kat Heckenbach
* "The Ape" by Kelli A. Wilkins
* "Judgment" by A.R. Norris
* "Open Season" by John H. Dromey
* "Valley of the Ravens" by Scott Taylor
* "The Onion Men" by Jacob Henry Orloff
* "Bleeding Sky" by Marie Croke
* "Borrowing Sugar" by Marshall Payne
* "On a Black Horse" by L.E. Erickson
* "Hot" by Nye Joell Hardy

I don't recognize a lot of the names in this one, but the ones I do are spectacular. I am actually shocked I am in such good company. I will post a link when it becomes available.

Hope everyone is having a warmer day than we are. This weather is rotten.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I am a bad writer

Since the beginning of the year (and what are now? 6 days into it) I have written a grand total of 500 words. I blame myself. It has been hectic and not entirely unproductive. I have edited re-written 20 or so pages since then, but new material has only been lingering on my brain with little time to get it down on flash drive.

Part of the reason is life. Life has become incredibly busy and unproductive and this does not make for good writing time. It also doesn't help when every waking minute is spent trying to figure out how your two year old reached the spray bottle of bleach on the back of the counter and where he sprayed the little bit that was left in said bottle. It really has been one calamity after another. By the end of the day I am so beat that all I want to do is fall asleep. Maybe today will be a little better.

Oh, look. It is starting to snow. Just what we needed to go on top of the two feet we already have. The forecast is calling for 6-10 inches and blizzard like conditions tomorrow. This will not help the writing cause as I will be spending hours clearing out my driveway now. ACK! Lucky for me the story I am working on doesn't seem to want to die but the words aren't coming very easily. I don't know if that makes any sense at all.

Have a good Wednesday. Sorry I don't have anything for WIP. Maybe next week.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The first Monday of 2010

I am in an odd minority. It is tax season and I like it. I anxiously await new tax forms to come in the mail or through my e-mail so I can enter them on my forms. I am neurotic like that. It also signals the beginning of a new year. New year, new plans, new adventures. New goals.

I only have two actual goals I would like in 2010. One in my hands and one completely out of my hands. 1. I really liked Aaron's goal of keeping one sub in front of a pro-paying market at all times. I did a pretty good job of it last year and I will continue that tradition now. 2. This one will be out of my hands but I am going to TRY to get a book sold. This one will be harder. I only have one book out in the world. He is a good book and I was relieved and sad to see him go. We waved and he promised me he would keep in touch as I sent him off. So far I haven't heard anything.I am working on getting another book ready for the world and I look forward to shipping it off on that train when the time comes, but not before then.

In other news I have started another blog. This one isn't for commenting or daily posts (although it would be nice). This one is for keeping track of things. I am using it as an out-there-for-the-world-to-see spreadsheet of sorts. I am using it to keep track of sales: in-print, on-line, and forthcoming and the books that I read during the year. It is listed under my things to read column on this blog. It lists all six of my upcoming publications and, as I stated earlier, it won't be updated as frequently but I can dream that it will be.

Have a great day. Mine is starting off with a bang. School is back in session and I forgot my daughters lunch in the mornings chaos (whiny son monopolizing my time) so I have deliveries to make. Have a good one.